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Notes about China
Forty strikes with crowbar
People all over the world love to watch movies. China is not an exception too. What kind of movies 1,5 billion of people watch?
Certainly, for such an audience it is meaningful to shoot films specially. To shoot films that are appreciated exactly by those 1,5 billions.
Chinese cinema, based on film-technologies accepted all over the world, nevertheless, has the specific contents, in many respects having inherited traditions of classical Chinese dramatic art. Here I shall try to designate properties distinguishing the Chinese cinema from films shot in other countries. The analysis, certainly, will be superficial. I am not an art critic, and this is not a history of Chinese cinema.
In '80s and '90s there was a breaktrough of the Chinese films to global scene. Speeches of film critics were full of names of film directors from the People's Republic of China, names of films recognized as significant artworks. Those films were understandable to people from other cultures, that's why, actually, have received the recognition. However, those were pearls. And there was as few of them as real pearls. But the face of Chinese cinema is defined by mass production. Mass character in this case is not a lack. For me, on the contrary, it is obvious plus. In mass it is easier to allocate typical features, which, at the certain diligence, it is possible to see in non-typical film-products too.
Let's begin from genres. They shoot various films in PRC: the historical and pseudo-historical, family dramas, love dramas (true, without erotic shade already habitual for us - but this is a question of internal politics of the state, instead of movie art itself), comedies, detectives, war films. Independently stand the films about martial arts which occupy an ecological niche of action movies. These films are so original that deserve to be treated separately.
As a rule, the plot of such films is based on adventures of the main character, who, using his outstanding abilities in martial arts, struggles for justice. There are two basic versions of main heroes: either the noble and very positive young man, by virtue of circumstances compelled to conduct hard life, or good-natured country blunderer, offended by everyone. It is completely logical, that the main hero must have a teacher - surely, the hero was not born already knowing and trained. And about seventy per cent of the screen time should be occupied by stages of training and learning great wisdoms. Each type of the hero has the respective type of teacher. The noble young man is trained by not less noble hermit with white thin beard, and the young blunderer - by ape-like hairy tramp, usually without beard, but with moustache.
The main hero by a plot should overcome difficulties. The largest difficulty is, certainly, the negative hero. This usually is the former best student of the teacher, which had comprehended all the secrets and kicked the teacher away. The truth, some things remain unexplained. If the student is such a villain, why the teacher taught him all the secrets? You see the same teacher through a word declares that secret art can be opened only for people with crystalline soul and clean file. And if it was the best student, what were the others? The villain makes not less strange impression. Loudly declaring his desire to kill the teacher, he nevertheless undertakes nothing for finding the old man, but only criminally earns money and morally corrupts. By the way, in most cases he knows a residence of the teacher.
To be casually not misundentified with someone of positive characters (that, actually, is no wonder), he wears a black beard, and, if the story occurs in relatively present days, black glasses as well. By the way, these evil markings have been also transferred to other, not only adjacent genres: detectives, war movies and even family dramas.
Usually film begins that the main negative character casually offends the main hero. The young man rushes into fight and, certainly, appears defeated. The villain demonstrates unnatural mercy: he leaves the main hero alive and even without the bases to apply for pension on physical inability; moreover, he quickly forgets about this annoying misunderstanding.
As a rule, the initial fight by pure accident occurs in the place where the hiding teacher uses to promenade. Strangely, for some reason he cannot ever meet the former best student, which quite often appears in the same place, but finds the idly laying main hero at the first try. Having listened the story about collision with the villain and about the hero's desire to revenge, he immediately registeres the young man as his student. If to look at situation without inappropriate enthusiasm, the motive of the teacher looks as follows: I cannot punish the villain myself, so I'd better to train you, and you, brave guy, kick his ass if you can. What a noble man!
The training looks originally. The student is forced to overcome difficulties, which are created to him by the teacher. Besides training itself, the instructor from the deep of soul loads the hero with the work of housekeeping, similar to the command of our armed forces acts with conscripted young men. The knowledge is given to the student not free. Basically, in this case there is no injustice. I train you, and you work for me. However teacher assures, that this work is the most true training. The young man is so stupid, that unconditionally trusts in it. Though if to proceed from this logic, the most invincible empty-hand fighters must be our janitor-ladies.
On a course of the film the hero periodically clashes with the main villain's tugs. As a rule, the collisions occur in uninhabited mountain or wood district, where both parties hang around without any useful purpose. Though, the tugs always carry swords. Having met the main hero, they meticulously inquire, who the hell he is. The young man, like being joined the Young Communist League, proudly tells them everything up to curriculum vitae. The villains, having listened the information, imbue with hostility to the hero and attack him. To attentive spectator it looks that their maximum task is to scare the young man. They swing with swords quite scary, however, before putting impact by a cutting weapon, they watch that the hero remove in time from this point of space the appropriate part of a body. The hero, deprived of any feeling of gratitude, beats them soundly. It seems, beats strongly, because the flying away opponents are bleeding. Interesting, the villains never attack all at once. They are queued for reception of impacts, as patients to the doctor.
In such films not only main characters, but also practically all others, except for crowd, are kungfu experts. It seems, everybody of them is not engaged in productive work, but only searches for a cause to fight.
Very remarkable feature of these characters - love to jump. For example, they quite often prefer to jump over a fence (necessarily with somersault) instead of simply entering a gate. In fights the jumps are obligatory. The characters not only jump upwards, that, for example to appear on a tree or on a roof (by the way, it is not clear what for - if the opponent does not follow them, they quickly jump back), but also forward, to move in space. The trajectory of these jumps resembles taking off of MIG-29 fighter - with proportional increase of height and speed. But the fighter has two jet engines. And where "kungfu master" has hidden his engine?
Meanwhile the plot comes near to an outcome. In most cases main negative character suddenly recalls his intention to kill the former teacher. He comes to quarters of the old master, and they squabble for relatively long time. Then the dispute turns into fight. During fight the participants make short pauses to scare each other by declaring, which refined techniques they will use. The villain appears much more strongly, and the teacher feels hard. At the most critical moment there comes the hero. He, strangely enough, does not rush immediately in fight, but begins to ask the main villain, what is the purpose of his visit, as does not see himself. It seems, the villain suspects, that the young man is not strong with mind, and patiently explains the purpose of the visit, also telling about himself. Having satisfied his curiosity, the hero enters fight.
The villain attacks the young man with hailstones of kicks and blows. Beats so strongly, that the guy makes flights backwards, crushing on a way movable and immovable property. It makes to cite unforgettable mayor from a comedy by Gogol: "Certainly, Alexander of Macedonia is a hero, but why to break chairs?" The positive hero, unlike inventory, does not receive fatal damages. He again and again arises on similar strikes, while within fifty meters around there does not remain any intact creation of human hands. By the way, from breaking impacts there does not suffer any tree available on the scene. It induces the reflections about the quality of Chinese industrial (or, if the story occurs in ancient times, handicraft) products.
Gradually negative hero becomes exhausted. It is natural, because his energy is consumed also for destruction of material assets. The positive hero, despite of received damages, at some moment guesses, that he is wanted to kill, and consequently turns to active actions. Without any reason he suddenly becomes very strong, and blows from now turn to the villain. The villain receives a lot of powerful impacts, made by both bare extremities and subjects at hand. Strangely enough, the main hero does not use weapons. Probably, from unskilfulness. Some support also comes from the teacher who timely returns to consciousness. After approximately forty impacts, each of them is comparable to strike with crowbar, the villain falls, there appears blood from his mouth, he utters a phrase such as "You killed me", then, having pulled a head, he dies.
Here the movie ends. It looks like the main hero has finished the greatest task of his life.
© Dmitry Alemasov
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